Saturday, May 16, 2009

A storm is coming (1 Chronicles 1-9)

It looms over you like a dark storm cloud...in the days leading up to it you feel like you're driving towards a city that you can tell is being battered by some seriously bad weather. In short, you just don't want ot go there. But then, when you get there, it's not like you can leave right away. You might be there for days, even a week, depending on your reading plan. I'm talking, of course, about the first eight chapters of 1 Chronicles.

All those names...pages after pages of lists. I thought the Bible was supposed to me about me? This isn't going to give me any practical tips for dealing with my life today...what's it doing here? Bish has been writing about genealogies, and since i'm reading 1 Chronicles at the moment, i thought i'd explore what the opening chapters are doing there.

Chronicles covers about the time from the beginning of 2 Samuel to the exile, but it was written much later than that. Probably after the exiles returned to Judah. Imagine being there then. Your father told you stories that he had heard. Stories of a great king, a great Kingdom, great battles against your enemies...and a glorious temple. You heard about the time when it really did seem like this little provincial town was at the centre of what God was doing everywhere.

But now... how can it be? You've been wiped out by your enemies. The northern tribes have vanished, and no matter what Nehemiah and Ezra say, you know there's little point in even trying to rebuild the temple. Except, there is something. Ezra's written a history book, a wisdom book. It begins wonderfully. Ezra links this small province in Persia all the way back to Adam, all the way through Abraham and his sons through to...well us. There aren't many more exciting things in all of Judah right now than that list.

So maybe this genealogy, far from being dull and skipable, tells us something marvellous about God's plan and purposes being worked out. About the scepter truly never departing from Judah. 1 Chronicles 1-9 exist to show God's people that they have legitimacy and identity as God's people, despite what their eyes and recent experiences tell them. They can still have faith in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Get the sword, get the trowel. Build and pray.

Genealogies are part of God's word and they do exist with a purpose, we just need to read the Word for what it is, and trust and enjoy that purpose.

1 comment:

dave bish said...

"Chronicles, the last book of the Hebrew Bible...begins with the genealogy of Adam and moves through the genealogies of the tribes of Israel. In particular, the genealogy of Judah is placed at the front of the list, and David's ancestors and royal descendants are prominently featured. After the remainder of the genealogies, history begins in 1 Chronicles 10 with Saul's demise and David's rise. The capture of Jerusalem and the reign of David become the focus of the next nineteen chapters. Again it is as if all history has been waiting, in this case not for Abraham, but for David from the tribe of Judah. Or in the words of Walter Bruggemann, all history is regarded as a footnote to David..."From Stephen Dempster, Geography and Genealogy, Dominion and Dynasty, p73, Biblical Theology edited by Scott Hafemann